Another clutch of congressional candidates from Santa Barbara is hoping to be San Luis Obispo County’s newest love interest. They should get to know us before setting a June 2016 wedding date — or the honeymoon could well be over by November.
To begin, these suitors should nix the narcissistic notion that Santa Barbara is the sum total of the 24th Congressional District, and that all it takes to win is a token effort to gain SLO County’s affections.
They’ll want to avoid acting like the stereotypical Santa Barbara politician, too self-absorbed to be familiar with SLO County politics. Even retiring U.S. Rep. Lois Capps, our representative in Washington for 17 years, occasionally takes us for granted.
Speaking recently at a Democratic Party fundraiser, Capps wondered aloud what the balance of party power is on the SLO County Board of Supervisors. She apparently didn’t know it’s made of three Republicans and two Democrats.
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You can bet she knows which party controls Santa Barbara County’s Board of Supervisors.
Likewise, Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal, the early Dem front-runner to replace Capps, didn’t know that sharing a stage to yuck it up with two spokesmen for the Coalition for Labor Agriculture and Business at a May fundraiser in Santa Barbara would be viewed askance by SLO County Democrats.
Carbajal said now he won’t attend. Still, there’s no excuse for a top-tier Democrat running for this seat not knowing of the animosity between COLAB and SLO County’s two ranking Democratic elected officials, Adam Hill and Bruce Gibson. (I’ve worked for Gibson.)
To his credit, Carbajal has spent time getting to know some Dems in SLO County. He certainly has more time here — and knows more of our politics — than his fellow Santa Barbara Dem contenders, Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider and (if she runs) Laura Capps, Lois’ daughter.
This Santa-Barbara-Is-All-That Syndrome is annoyingly ubiquitous.
Reporting on younger Capps and her dynastic ambitions, Politico described the 24th District as “Santa Barbara and stretches up the coast.” National Journal quoted EMILY’s list calling Laura Capps “a progressive champion for Santa Barbara women and families.”
As for SLO County women and families? Whatever.
These slights have continued every election cycle since 1992, when Michael Huffington won the seat featuring the newly conjoined counties. They’re tiresome and unwise, considering how large a slice of the 24th District SLO County is. Jack O’Connell recognized this and moved from Santa Barbara to SLO County in his successful bid for the state Senate seat in the 1990s.
The district’s voter profile is 55 percent Santa Barbara County, 43.4 percent SLO County and 1.6 percent Ventura County. Democrats make up 37 percent, Republicans 34 percent, minor parties 2.8 percent and declined to states 26.2 percent.
The top two primary election finalists — regardless of party or number of votes — will face off in the November 2016 general election.
Republican Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian of San Luis Obispo appears to understand the math. Achadjian has a solid voter base from San Miguel to Lompoc. His only Republican rival so far, Justin Fareed, 27, seems to be campaigning for Santa Barbara student body president, given his 2014 TV commercial featuring him running around with a football.
If all three Santa Barbara Democrats run, they’ll split votes with SLO campaign finance reformer Bill Ostrander. Barring another Republican jumping in, this would open the door for Achadjian or Fareed to snare the most votes, putting one of them in pole position come November.
With the potential lack of excitement among California Democrats due to an early Hillary Clinton primary victory, chances are iffy for a solid Dem turnout. Because if Democrats are excellent at anything, it’s not voting.
The 24th Congressional District is home to two world-class universities, the best wines, best weather, best environment, best surf, best beaches, best entrepreneurs. Its voters are world travelers, thinkers, makers, movers, doers. We deserve a representative in Congress as awesome as us.
The surest way to motivate turnout is by offering voters something awesome. Lois Capps is rightfully recognized by Beltway media as the “nicest” person in Congress, but dynamic she’s not.
Civility is great, but our next representative also needs a burning passion to promote and defend the entire district’s core values on the national stage.